COVID-19 Pandemic Worsens the Mental Health of Minority Children

By: Jenny Manrique


A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that surveyed more than 7,000 high school students, revealed that 55.1% described suffering emotional abuse, 44.2% reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness and 9% attempted suicide. More young women and LGBTQ+ youth saw a rise in suicidal behavior, more Asian kids confronted racism and hate, more Black youth and Native Americans experienced hunger and economic devastation and along with Latinos, suffered mental stress due to the pandemic.


A panel of experts convened by Ethnic Media Services explained that to avert a “pandemic” of future adults with serious emotional and mental disorders, it’s important to foster a positive ethnic racial identity. They argue that civic engagement in particular, can be a mental health intervention: building opportunities for young people to speak truth to power and connect with their communities is key for their development.


Angela Vasquez, MSW, policy director for mental health at The Children’s Partnership:


“Nearly 50% of youth who are severely impaired with a major depressive episode did not receive treatment… Black and Latino children were about 14% less likely than white youth to receive treatment for their depression… Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Native youth, so nearly three and a half times higher than the national average. And high school girls across all races and ethnicities made plans to attempt suicide more than boys.”


“Over half of Latina girls are worried about a friend or family member being deported. Nearly a quarter have been harassed because of their family name, or country of origin. Since the pandemic started, Asian youth have been experiencing harassment and bullying.”


“Family separation harms children’s mental and physical health; children of undocumented parents are at risk of behavioral problems. Having parents taken away undermines family economic security. The climate of fear further restricts children, access to education, public benefits, and other services.”


“Direct and vicarious exposure to police violence, including immigration enforcement are contributors to toxic stress…There is a large growing campaign for police free schools.”



Dr. Ilan Shapiro, Pediatrician, chief medical affairs officer of Altamed federally qualified health centers, Los Angeles


“As a pediatrician, they never tell you about all the tools that you need to bring on board for a pandemic, especially on the suffering of a community that has lost so much from life complications. And it’s not just the Latino Hispanic community… We need to make sure that we create structural changes.”


“There’s something called the Internet that most of my patients don’t have… There was a year that they were at home doing nothing, eating whatever, they were feeling depressed, anxious without moving, the (pandemic) ramifications were horrible.”


“At least 50% of the patients that I take care of, were directly touched by COVID-19: they were sick, they had a family member that was close to them that actually died, or they were harmed because of the pandemic.”


“We need to translate medical terms to an actionable language that our community can actually do something with… It’s up to us to make sure that we create open conversations and resources with media with healthcare providers.”



Dr. Myo Thwin Myint, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Tulane University School of Medicine, He serves on the American Academy of Child and Adolescent (AACAP) Training and Education Committee New Orleans, Louisiana:


“Disparity exists in terms of racial minoritized groups, as well as a gender and sexual minoritized groups. Particularly our LGBTQ and trans kids suffer disproportionately from the mental health challenges because of the unjust societal challenges. Across the country, many state legislatures are discussing passing laws that add additional stress to get appropriate care.”


“Our Surgeon General has put out a general mental health advisory and (recognized that) a crisis is happening. It was really good to see that there’s recognition from the federal government and we hope that what follows will be an investment in our youth’s mental health.”


“We should being able to go out to the youth where the challenges are happening rather than waiting in our clinic and ivory towers where we know there are systemic challenges such as transportation. We need to be thinking very creatively how we are going to be providing care.”



Sydney McKinney, PhD, Executive Director of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute based in Brooklyn:


“Addressing the mental health and wellness of black women and girls is really vital to reducing their risk of coming into contact with the juvenile legal and the criminal legal system… Among black teenage girls, suicide death rates increased from 2001 to 2017 by 182%.”


“Nearly 2 million young people are arrested by police every year. And data show that 75% of those have experienced traumatic victimization in their lifetime… Black girls account for 43% of girls who are in youth detention which is more than any other racial group.”


“The pandemic has exacerbated the mental health needs of black girls and gender expansive youth who are directly impacted by the foster care, the child welfare system and the juvenile legal system.”


“Media can elevate and bring attention to mental health and wellness programs and services that are culturally affirming and gender responsive. So much of what people know are clinical modalities, which many of the folks in our communities are reluctant to engage in for very well founded reasons.”